John W. Kennedy has given us a great gift that has gone largely unnoticed in the western world. “The Torch of the Testimony” uncovers the 2,000-year history of those believing Christians and churches that stood outside the Protestant and Catholic traditions.
“The history of the working of the Spirit of God is not the history of any organization, and what usually goes by the name ‘Church History’ is only too often a sorry tale of bigoted quarrels and selfish intrigue. Yet the history of the two, the spiritual movement, and the earthly institution, are sometimes so closely intermingled that it is impossible to give an account of one without referring to the other.” p. 56
Kennedy gives us a concise narrative of church history while distinguishing between the “spiritual church” and the organized church of man.
He is gracious and honest to point out the good that was achieved within the organized church, but is consistent in his critique of both movements of the church.
He very powerfully exposes the shortcomings of the institutional church and how past saints concluded that it can never be reformed. What is needed is a return to New Testament church practice.
“The life of Christ and the Lordship of Christ through His Word are, therefore, two things which mark out the church of the New Testament. When these are supplanted by anything else, the result is a departure from the principle of Scripture and ultimate confusion.” p. 177
He wonderfully weaves together the disjointed stories of the church to paint a clear picture of the challenges that still face us today. The reader can’t help but be awakened to the reality that we are a part of the unfolding story of Christ’s church.
In this book, you will learn about how the the church began to drift from apostolic teachings through Greco-Roman influence and opened the door for the Constantinian State in the fourth century.
You will discover the enduring testimony of the remnant that existed apart from the organized church up to the Protestant Reformation and onward. You will learn how a break from the State Church into independent movements produced denominations built upon doctrines instead of the rock of Christ.
How did we get to where we are today? Where are we in the story of God’s people? Will we learn from the mistakes of the past? What will be written about us?
Will our relationship to Christ be the unifying bond that births our church practice or will we be distracted by power and cling to weapons of the world in an attempt to advance the Gospel?
I can’t stress enough how important this book is to the study of the development of Christianity. This book is a “must read” for every serious student of church history.
If you are involved in organic church life and gatherings outside of the institutional church, this book should be required reading before you can say, “I am part of a house church.”
If this account of church history doesn’t move you… I would recommend you check your spiritual pulse.
The Untold Story of the New Testament Church: An Extraordinary Guide to Understanding the New Testament
Paul’s Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Cultural Setting, Revised Edition
Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices
The Reformers and Their Stepchildren (Dissent and Nonconformity)